Being in the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in the world means that Mr Bernard Ong, 37, gets to trot the globe.
As the regional sourcing manager at ExxonMobil Chemical Asia Pacific, Mr Ong spends most of his working hours in meetings or teleconferences, planning and directing implementation of initiatives, checking on project progress and identifying new areas of improvements.
He also travels extensively and works with counterparts from all around the world.
Says Mr Ong: “Within a single week, I could be negotiating with suppliers in Shanghai, planning a new initiative with my team members in Hong Kong, and reviewing performance at our manufacturing plants in China, Japan and Singapore.
“In addition, I also interface routinely with counterparts in other regions via teleconferences, which usually take place in the evenings to accommodate the different time zones.”
In his 14 years with ExxonMobil, he has worked in seven different roles ranging from mechanical engineer to regional sourcing manager, in functions spanning engineering, technical, operations, marketing, management and supply chain.
“ExxonMobil has allowed me to develop my leadership and managerial skills while experiencing very different jobs within the industry, all within a single company,” he says.
His company also spares no effort in developing its new hires. Within six months of joining ExxonMobil, Mr Ong was sent on his first overseas assignment as an engineer at its chemical plant in Louisiana in the United States to learn about the company’s operations.
ExxonMobil is the largest refiner and marketer of petroleum products and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world.
It also has a refinery and a world-scale petrochemical complex, and has a large fuels marketing presence, with regional offices for its lubricants and specialties and chemicals businesses, located in Singapore.
Mr Ong says: “ExxonMobil provides opportunities to employees who are able to perform and deliver results in an ethical manner. I like the organisation as it has high ethical standards, which resonate with my own personal beliefs and faith.
“The work environment and culture is very collegial and I have very capable, supportive and dedicated colleagues.”
While time constraints and prioritising business needs are a constant challenge, the drive to be an agent of change to make things better keeps him going.
“My deep-rooted desire is to leave each situation or issue better than when I found it.
“I love the fact that I’m paid to learn, grow, develop friendships and gain experience! I am also very blessed to have a supportive and understanding supervisor,” he adds.
With the extensive travelling and the occasional long work day, Mr Ong tries to spend his evenings with his wife and children.
On weekends, he is like any other dutiful dad who chauffeurs his children to their activities, plays sports with them and helps them with their schoolwork. Friday evenings are reserved for dates with his wife.
With his years of experience, Mr Ong advises engineers to consider their career choices carefully. As a fresh engineering graduate himself years ago, he had contemplated a career in management consulting.
However, he found out that Exxon-Mobil was building its largest petrochemical complex in Singapore and realised that there would be numerous opportunities available.
“I decided that if I were to ever practise engineering, this would be the time and place for it.”
Now is a good time to join the petrochemical industry too, he says, with its growth and expansion on Jurong Island.
Adds Mr Ong: “There are few sectors other than the petrochemical industry where you will find more wide-ranging and rewarding career opportunities.”